If you can’t wait to read the full novel, it is available in Amazon as a kindle eBook. ‘They Take our Children, Book One, The Truth Revealed’
‘They Take our Children, Book Two, Taking Control,’ is now available from Amazon, also as a kindle eBook.
The coloured lights reflected onto the flushed excited faces of the girls. Of course, they no longer believed in Santa Claus, but Christmas was still just as exciting without the childish myth. They sat back on their heels admiring their handiwork. They gazed up at the huge tree. Their father had warned them at the garden centre that it would be too big for the living room. He’d chuckled at them and said they’d have to put it in the garden if it didn’t fit in the house.
It did fit, though. The top of the tree, now adorned with the fairy that Helen made at primary school eight years ago, scraped the ceiling. The outer branches, dripping with tinsel and glass baubles, reached out into the centre of the room.
‘Well we know where the tree is going to spend Christmas, now where are we going to live while it takes over our house?’ Their mother asked when she bustled into the room wiping flour from her red hands with the tea cloth tucked around her ample middle. ‘My word but you’ve done a grand job!’ She tilted her head back to admire the full extent of the eight-foot decoration dominating her front room.
The two girls beamed and winked at each other.
‘I saw that!’ Mary looked down her nose from beneath her reading spectacles at her daughters. ‘What are you two cooking up?’
Janine reached under the tree and flicked a switch. The tiny lights began to chase each other round and round, up and down, flashing on and off as they went.
‘Oh my, that’s pretty,’ Mary smiled at her two daughters.
‘Can we have a mince pie, Mum? Please?’ Janine asked.
Helen knew Janine had been putting off asking for as long as she could but the aroma of her mum’s Christmas baking was obviously too tempting.
‘Of course you can, bairn, careful mind, they’ll still be hot!’ Mary called as Janine raced to the kitchen.
‘Mum!’ Helen admonished her mother. ‘You shouldn’t encourage her.’
‘Oh stop fussing, Helen, it’s only puppy fat, she’ll grow out of it.’
‘Like you did, Mum?’ Helen chuckled.
‘Cheeky young madam!’ Mary flicked a corner of the tea cloth in her daughter’s direction and Helen ducked, giggling as her mum waddled back into the kitchen.
The television played in the opposite corner of the room from the Christmas tree. The lunchtime local news programme started and Helen went to switch channels but stopped halfway to the screen. The newsreader was reporting the latest sighting of the strange lights that had been seen in the skies over Yorkshire during the past few weeks. She watched, fascinated, as an amateur film of the strange lights filled the screen. Red and green and blue and yellow dots flashed in patterns, growing larger, then smaller, before chasing each other across the sky, just like their new Christmas tree lights. The commentator was explaining that more lights had been seen in the sky over Todmorden and last night, they’d been seen over Brighouse.
Helen listened as a scientist was interviewed from an observatory somewhere on the North Yorkshire Moors. He talked about electrical storms, naturally occurring magnetic fields and the Northern Lights. Another man went on to explain that the lights could even have something to do with the strange weather patterns caused by Global warming. Helen thought it sounded like waffle. Nobody seemed to know exactly what the lights were. She decided to talk to her father about it when he got home from work, knowing that his theory was likely to be as good as the ones on the Television.
Helen watched the later evening news with her family. The whole country seemed to be talking about the ‘Northern Christmas lights’ in the sky.
‘Most people think it’s just an elaborate hoax,’ her father was explaining to the girls. ‘You know, like the crop circles that appeared in the summer?’
Helen nodded. She had known her father would be able to give a reasonable explanation. ‘What do you think they are, Dad?’ she asked.
‘Well, I know the local authorities have been questioning the owners of that new chain of nightclubs. You know the ones that have the newfangled laser lighting? I think that seems likely to be the cause of all the excitement.’
Mary scoffed. ‘Well, whatever it is, it’ll end up being a seven-day wonder, you mark my words.’
‘It’s already been more than a month since the first sighting, Mum.’ Janine pointed out.
The television was showing footage of some people standing on a hilltop looking up at the night sky.
‘Look at those silly people!’ Mary tut-tutted. ‘Fancy standing around in the freezing cold all night, just on the off-chance of seeing a laser light show.’
Helen watched her father smile indulgently at her mother. She knew there was no telling where the lights would be sighted next and she hoped she would be lucky enough to see them for herself. She watched every night from her bedroom window, but so far the lights had not ventured into the sky above her hometown of Wakefield and she went to sleep each night, disappointed.
A big party was planned for New Year’s Eve, all George and Mary’s friends were coming. Some neighbours had been invited and Janine and Helen’s friends from school. Mary fussed around the house all day, worrying how they would fit everyone into the little three bedroom semi. George spent the day setting up the bar, tinkering in the shed and reassuring Mary that the garden was big enough for the overspill from the house, explaining that he’d told them all to bring their overcoats.
‘You can’t expect folks to stand outside in the freezing cold, George!’ Mary told him as she covered another plate of sandwiches with a clean damp cloth to prevent them from drying out.
‘They’ll be fine with a few glasses of this punch inside them.’ George poured another bottle of dark spirits into the deep-red concoction in the bowl.
‘Steady with that, George, you’ll have them collapsing with alcoholic poisoning, on top of hypothermia!’ Mary admonished him with a twinkle in her eye.
‘Stop fussing, woman!’ George chuckled and shuffled across the kitchen to give his wife a hug. ‘This is going to be a party to remember!’ He planted an affectionate kiss on her smooth forehead.
‘Humph!’ Mary wriggled free of his grasp. ‘That’s if they remember anything with all that booze to fuddle their brains!’ She slapped his hand as he reached for a sausage roll.
‘I only wanted one, to put me on, like.’ He gave her a sheepish look from under lowered eyelids.
‘As if you needed it, you’re hardly starving!’ She giggled and poked a finger at the rounded stomach hanging over his jeans. ‘I think a diet should be on your list of New Year resolutions.’
‘Again?’ George pulled a face. ‘Didn’t I do that last year?’
‘Well you can help our Janine this year.’ Helen grinned at her father. She had been watching her parents fooling and teasing each other. ‘It’ll do you good to lose a few pounds!’
George sighed heavily. ‘Stop ganging up on me, it’s not fair.’
Helen grinned. ‘You know it’s for your own good! Mum could do to lose a few pounds too.’
‘Less of that, young madam.’ Mary winked at Helen. ‘We can’t all be blessed with your good genes. You take after your great grandma; she was always slim as a whippet.’
‘You’ll never have to worry about getting one of these, young lady.’ George took hold of his paunch and wobbled it with both hands.
‘Oh, Dad, that’s disgusting!’
The party was in full swing when George began to organise the fireworks. Helen watched him go into the garden shed and bring out a huge metal box. He called over some of his male friends and together they made a big show of setting the contents of the box in precisely the right places. It seemed hours to Helen and her friends, who were watching and waiting in the freezing night air but when the first rocket went up, it was exactly fifteen minutes to midnight.
George and his friends were like a gang of little boys, whooping and hollering, pushing and shoving to be the next to light one of the fireworks. The smaller children were entranced, with pink faces and noses red from the cold, they cheered every bang and crackle, gasping at the exploding lights filling the frosty night sky.
Other houses in nearby streets had the same idea and joined in sending their rockets skywards to add to the display. It reminded the girls of bonfire night without the fire and stuffed Guy Fawkes. Mary brought out trays filled with mugs of cocoa for the children and steaming coffee for the adults, doing her bit to keep the guests happy and warm and sober.
Soon after the last rocket fell to Earth, the words of Auld Lang Syne began to echo round the garden as they joined hands at midnight to welcome in the New Year. The circle of people jostled together, then pulled apart, holding fingertips, then crashed into the middle again in the traditional dance of Hogmanay. They quieted to listen to the church clock as it began to peel in the New Year and at the first distant chime of midnight, the circle broke and the friends started to hug and kiss each other in the centre of the lawn. Above the shouting and cheering and of people wishing each other, ‘Happy New Year’, a lone voice cried out above the din.
‘Look! Look up there!’
Helen looked with everyone else, as all eyes were drawn to the stiffly pointing finger. Heads turned upwards and mouths fell silently open.
Dotted among the stars, hung brighter balls of light. Soft edged, mellow, gleaming tennis balls of colour. They hovered, gently bobbing to an unheard rhythm, the blue ones forming an outer circle, while the red and yellow and orange ones slowly travelled to the centre and out again. The lights were performing their own version of the dance the party revellers had so recently abandoned. Faster and faster they moved, performing intricate patterns, looking like a child’s kaleidoscope in the sky.
People in the garden continued to stare open-mouthed. Helen reached out her hand, with her eyes still fixed on the spectacle above. She groped in the dark to find contact with her father, needing the familiar reassuring touch of reality. Puzzled faces appeared at neighbouring windows, wondering at the sudden silence. Neighbours began to wander from their homes into the streets in their dressing gowns, with heads tilted backward, staring at the phenomena. The display continued for ten or fifteen minutes, during which time all conversation ceased, except for a few inane utterances. Most people were struck dumb by the spectacle.
Then the lights began to wobble, as if the night sky had become liquid. Gradually, they dissipated, seeming to melt and dissolve into the heavens, leaving only the distant stars and street lamps to light the darkness.
The street erupted with a babble of voices and neighbours in nightclothes ran to join the group in George and Mary’s garden.
‘Dad, what were they?’ Helen clutched her father’s hand tightly as people began to crush into the garden.
‘I don’t know, my love.’ Her father put his arm around her and steered her into the house. Helen allowed him to lead her through the throng of bodies. She heard snippets of conversation as she passed through the crowd. Most were amazed at the experience. Some seemed shocked and subdued. Others were openly admitting they were afraid.
Gradually, the party moved inside, bodies cramming together in every room. Neighbours in pyjamas sat comfortably with elegantly dressed party folk, discussing and debating long into the night. Children fell asleep in parents’ arms and teenagers listened with eyes wide.
Helen sat in a corner on the floor with Janine, close to their father and both girls listened intently to the conversations ebbing and flowing around them. What they heard frightened and intrigued them. Their father explained his theory, that the lights were some type of laser display and he blamed the all-night disco in town. Some neighbours said they’d heard the theory about electrical disturbances in the frosty atmosphere. One or two mentioned spaceships, but they were laughed at.
‘Why would aliens want to spend New Year in Wakefield?’ One man quipped, causing more laughter among the group of friends.
The New Year was a few hours old when the first of the guests began to leave, carrying sleeping children wrapped in coats. When Helen finally went up to her bed, she told Janine that they would never forget this New Year’s Eve and Janine agreed that it had certainly been a party to remember.
To be continued……..